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The New Zealand Railways Magazine, Volume 13, Issue 2 (May 2, 1938.)

Our London Letter — Suburban Electrification in Britain

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Our London Letter
Suburban Electrification in Britain.

Menai Bridge, L.M. & S. Railway.

Menai Bridge, L.M. & S. Railway.

Electrification of mainline railways is not proceeding very rapidly in Britain. For suburban operation, however, electricity is, by degrees, replacing steam. We were, by the way, privileged the other day to inspect new equipment intended for the Wellington-Paekakariki and Wellington - Johnsonville electrifications. This consisted of a complete electric locomotive, and seven sets of electrical equipment and material for the mechanical parts of similar locomotives to be built and erected in New Zealand; and (for the Johnsonville route) six two-coach electric trains. The English Electric Company is supplying the electrical equipment, and Robert Stephenson and Hawthorns Ltd. the mechanical parts of the locomotives. The High Commissioner for New Zealand recently travelled from London to Preston to inspect the work. The locomotives are designed to haul 250-ton passenger trains at speeds up to 55 m.p.h., and 500 ton freight trains up to a speed of 45 m.p.h. They are of 2-8-4 wheel arrangement, and, like the electric coaches, present a remarkably spick-and-span appearance.

Britain's latest electrification is that of the Newcastle and South Shields tracks of the London and North Eastern Railway, on the D.C. third-rail system, with eight-car electric trains worked on the multiple-unit principle. The Tyneside zone is one of our busiest industrial areas, and to facilitate traffic working, the routes lying alongside the River Tyne, on its northern bank, were electrified some years ago. Opportunity has now been taken to modernise the whole of the track equipment on these lines, and 132 new passenger cars have been provided. Train services, too, have been accelerated. In consequence of these efforts, the electrified tracks centred on Newcastle, rank as the most up-to-date in Britain. The new cars, of steel construction, set an entirely new standard of comfort for suburban travellers. They have a gay exterior finish in red and cream.

A Big Renewals Programme.

Permanent-way renewals on a huge scale are being undertaken by the Home lines. On the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, for example, £2,500,000 is being spent on track renewals, and, 96,000 tons of new steel rails are being purchased. Altogether, about 600 miles of track (including points and crossings) are being completely relaid. L. M. & S. engineers are studying amended designs of track components, and the use of mechanical appliances to facilitate the handling of the heavy material involved. They are also experimenting with new devices making for travel smoothness and quietness, one invention being a rail having a patent joint, with the ends of the rails fitting in each other and not abutting as in the standard type of track. Extended use is also being made of short two-hole fishplates, instead of the standard four-hole plate. By using the short plate, it is possible to place the sleepers supporting the rails much nearer to the rail ends, and by so doing obtain a shorter bearing at the joints.

New Multiple Unit train, Tyneside Electric Lines,

New Multiple Unit train, Tyneside Electric Lines,

Automatic Train Control.

Great improvements have been made in recent years in automatic train control systems. In this effort, the Great Western is a pioneer among Home railways. Automatic control is already in operation on some 2,600 miles of track between London and Plymouth, and London and the Midlands, and extensions of the system are now in hand. On completion of these works, the whole of the company's 2,840 miles of trunk routes between London, Penzance, Fishguard and Chester will be equipped. So, too, will the 2,900 locomotives running over these routes. The G. W. automatic train control system was invented by members of the company's staff. The arrangement enables an engine-driver to receive an audible warning in his cab as to the position of each “caution” signal. If the line is clear, a bell rings by the driver's side. If not clear, and the signal is at “caution,” a siren blows and the brakes are automatically applied throughout the train. The device is operated by the signalman, who sends his sound message to the engineer via an electric wire connected to an iron ramp placed between the running lines near each “caution” signal; and an iron shoe, shaped like an inverted “T,” fitted under the engine so as to make contact with every ramp.

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G.W.R.Paddington to Birkenhead Express. (Locomotive “King Henry V.)

G.W.R.Paddington to Birkenhead Express. (Locomotive “King Henry V.)

Making Rail Travel Popular.

Clean and bright passenger stations can do a great deal to popularise rail-way travel. One way of adding to the attractiveness of stations consists in the cultivation of pleasing flower gardens, and the placing of flower boxes and hanging baskets full of gay plants on platforms and in other suitable positions. The Home railways encourage this activity by promoting each year prize contests for the best-kept stations, and with spring in the air the railroadmen's gardening activities are now in full swing. Another way in which the Home lines are popularising rail travel takes the form of providing special motor car parks at the principal city and suburban station. The daily charge for parking at stations in or near large towns or industrial areas in normally one shilling for motor cars and sixpence for motor cycles. In rural areas, Where space is usually less valuable, these charges are halved. The station car park has proved a great boon to the regular passenger, who drives to the station in the morning, leaves his car in the railway “park” all day, and picks it up again in the evening on his return. Seasn tickets are issued for this purpose at reduced rates.

An Interesting Competition.

We live in an age of competitions. A somewhat different contest from the station gardens effort is the “Sales Contest” recently introduced by the Southern Railway. With the idea of increasing passenger and freight revenues the various stations on the system have been grouped into leagues, and each station has been advised what revenue it will be expected to earn during the year so as to produce a total increase in railway earnings for 1938 of about £250,000. The scoring is based on percentage of increase, and silver cups and shields are to be presented to the winners in each of the company's six divisions. In addition, there are cash awards for the best sales efforts by individual members of the staff. An interesting feature is that each station displays a special calendar showing the progress made week by week.

Some Important Anniversaries.

The largest Home railway—the L.M. & S.—is this year to celebrate the one hundredth anniversary of the opening of one of its most important sections, between London and Birmingham. The earliest length of the London and Birmingham Railway — the first trunk line out of London — was opened from Euston to Boxmoor (242 miles) in July, 1837, but the line was not opened throughout to Birmingham until September 17, 1838. Another important centenary which falls this year is that of the opening of the North Union Railway, from Wigan (of music - hall fame) to Preston, in October, 1838. This opening established continuous railway communication between Euston Station, London, and Preston, in Lanca-shire, a distance of 216 1/2 miles. In May this year, also, there occurs the centenary of the opening of the Manchester and Bolton Railway, the first completed section of what later became the Lancashire and Yorkshire system, itself eventually swallowed up in the L. M. & S. group; while October will see the one-hundredth anniversary of the opening of the Sheffield & Rotherham Railway.

Electric Locomotive for the Wellington-Paekakariki service (North Island, New Zealand) outside English Electric Company's Preston Works.

Electric Locomotive for the Wellington-Paekakariki service (North Island, New Zealand) outside English Electric Company's Preston Works.

The World's Longest Rail Journey.

Unsettled conditions to-day affect the running of that unique passenger train, the “Trans-Siberian Express,” although the through working is regularly set out in the official time-tables. This train, scheduled to travel halfway round the world, and occupying about a fortnight on the journey, actually affords the longest rail trip possible anywhere. With rail connections between London and Moscow, the throughout ride from the metropolis to Vladivostock is one of 7,719 miles. The ponderous locomotives mostly burn wood fuel. If you can afford it, you may secure really comfortable accommodation on the train. A restaurant car is carried, offering a light continental breakfast of coffee and rolls, and substantial mid-day and evening meals. Certainly, this must be the most novel, as well as the longest, of all railway rides!

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